Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Flock of Cycles (May 22, 2010)

Current mood: triumphant

Critical Mass bike rides were formed several years ago to drive home (please excuse the pun) the notion that bicycles matter, that enough of them, put together, can take over the street, much as cars do and have done with the road network for decades.

We've made our point. There is now a constant flow of cyclists in our midst, and depending on where you live, there might be quite a few of them. This has brought to the forefront another problem: Idiot cyclists. Not everyone adheres to the law, and many go out of their way to flaunt it.

The secondary effect is that many motorists now view cyclists with disdain, prejudging them to all be the idiots that make up the minority of our numbers. Critical Mass rides continue to exist, though, and a realistic argument can be made that, despite its flaws, it is still needed.

It is time, though, for a new idea, and tonight was its first ride: A Flock Of Cycles.

The pun on the 1980s music group, A Flock Of Seagulls, is entirely intentional, of course, as is the design we may yet put on a T-shirt.

Here's the deal: A Flock Of Cycles wants to drive home the notion that a large group of cyclists, large enough to matter, can adhere to the law while riding around in an urban area. We stop at stop signs. We stop at traffic lights. We do not block intersections. We do not cause panic to pedestrians. We try to stay together when a red light splits us, not by corking the intersection to let us all get through, but to have the front line wait until the light turns so the rear group can catch up.

And do all this while having a good time, chatting with passers-by and motorists stopped at lights and people out in their yards. Everyone liked the variety of bicycles, from the one recumbent to the two tall bikes. Two bikes had large, loud sound systems, each blaring music from the 1980s, including tunes from A Flock Of Seagulls. (And we turned the sound down when it mattered. We were being courteous, remember? But meanwhile we rocked out.)

We saw families out for a stroll and talked with them. We gave thumbs-ups to the many, many people who gave us thumbs-ups. Not a single time was any other finger displayed to us. We were nice to people. People were nice to us. Lots of honks. Lots of waves. A couple among us had decent cameras and took pictures of us rolling past; I will post links when I obtain them.

When it was all over, we adjourned to a neighborhood pizza place and chowed down.

Many of us knew each other primarily through the Bike-Pittsburgh message board, but had not met in person. My profile photo there is the same blue-sweater-and-bike-and-green-bus one I've used on Facebook and MySpace for several months, so quite a few people knew me on sight. A few of them I had traded messages with for some time but finally got a chance to talk with.

Then there was the ride itself. By someone's calculation later, we covered at least 22 miles of city streets, bridges, and a couple of paths. We crossed the Allegheny and Monongahela twice each. We hit neighborhoods in the East End, the North Side, and the South Side, as well as Oakland at least twice, but not once did we touch Downtown Pittsburgh. We did venture into Point State Park, where the assembled throng got into riding in a large circle for a couple of times around. This was amazing fun! When else would you have almost 30 sober adults all laughing and truly having fun together?

This is what happens when you have dedicated, educated adults trying to do good in the world. We might not change the world overnight, but we clearly started something here tonight. I really do hope it catches on!


Big slideshow here!

Bike-Pgh thread where this idea originated, starting with the photos posted post-ride.

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